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What's the best sound quality per dollar solution--iPod speakers? Table radios? Home theater in a box systems?

Want the best sound for your money? Buy a good quality home theater in a box.

I've heard 'em all and I'm here to tell you there's a hierarchy of fidelity. The pipsqueak iPod speakers (pretty much everything under $100) sound tinny, screechy, with zero bass and can't play at all loud. They're all different shades of awful. Sure, some $300 iPod speakers are way better, more or less on par with a decent sounding table radio, I'm thinking here of my favorite Boston Acoustics Receptor, Tivoli, and Cambridge SoundWorks models. Then again, the better radios and iPod speakers are priced upwards of $500 or more, and for that kind of dough you could pick up a HTIB.

For a great tabletop radio, let's take a look at Cambridge SoundWorks i765 iPod/Video Entertainment System ($500). It comes with a nifty integrated iPod dock, plays CDs and DVDs, has a terrific AM/FM radio, and sound pretty good, for a table radio (my CNET review will be posted later this month).

Or you could buy an Onkyo HT-SR700 HTIB ($500 SRP, but street prices are closer to $350). It comes with a 5.1 channel A/V receiver, five satellite speakers, and a 230 watt, 10-inch subwoofer. Granted, you still have to add a DVD player, maybe a Philips DVP5982 that comes with HDMI/1080p connectivity for around $60. Got an iPod? Toss in a $6 mini-plug to stereo RCA cable so you can play your iPod over the HT-SR700's speakers and sub. Or treat yourself to Onkyo's dedicated dock, the DS-AS2 ($109 SRP).

You get a lot for your money. Onkyo

Now sure, the Cambridge i765 is far more compact, doesn't require a mess 'o' wires, and is easier to set up, but sonically the Onkyo HTIB is miles ahead for music, and there's simply no comparison for movies. The Onkyo's bona-fide surround and powerful subwoofer are so much more satisfying than any table radio could ever be. Hey, the table radio and HTIB are nearly the same price, choose sound quality or a lifestyle solution. Just don't kid yourself that they sound the same, they don't.